Coping, Friends & Family

Chronic Illness and Marriage

Chronic illness and marriage is such a complicated combination that it’s rare to see a healthy spouse’s perspective on their partner’s chronic illness. I read Living With a Husband’s Chronic Illness Has a Bad Effect on His Wife’s Health eager for insight. I didn’t like the insight I got.

I genuinely wanted to read what this woman had to say, to see her difficult experiences and uncomfortable thoughts laid bare. My immediate response? To get defensive and write a long post about it. The gist: “How unfair that she’s taking her husband’s illness out on him. Does she realize he may be watching too much TV because he can’t do anything else? And, yes, that includes folding the laundry while watching.”

Instead of posting my inflamed response, I re-read the article many times over the week. , the author, knows she’s being unfair, but she’s exhausted and burnt out. She knows her husband isn’t to blame, but she doesn’t know where else to direct her anger and resentment. (She may not know that it’s possible to be too sick to fold laundry. I expect not many people can understand that unless they’ve lived it.)

Writing this article took tremendous bravery. Lewis admitted ugly truths about herself and her thoughts and published it anyway. She wrote honestly about a topic so painful and verboten that few people are candid about it (especially in print).

Of course I don’t like what she had to say. I have a chronic illness that’s had a tremendous impact on my husband. I’ve heard the saddest stories about how chronic illness destroys relationships. There’s an oft-cited statistic that the lifetime divorce rate is 75% for people with chronic illness (the overall lifetime divorce rate is highly debated, but 42% seems to be a reasonable estimate.). There’s some question over whether this number is accurate, though experts agree that the divorce rate for the chronically ill is very high.

I’m working on an article for about managing migraine’s impact on a marriage. One of the suggestions is to talk about migraine’s affect on the relationship. I say, “The truth will probably hurt both of you. Talk about it anyway.” And then I read this article from a healthy caregiver and was hurt by truths from someone else’s relationship. This is emotionally fraught stuff.

I applaud for her courage and honesty. The difficulties of caring for a chronically ill spouse need to be acknowledged, even though many of those who are sick won’t like what we read.

Here are some resources for learning how to support a marriage in the face of chronic illness (I’ll add my piece when it’s published):

Feb. 17, 2015: 8 Tips to Manage Migraine’s Impact on Marriage is that post I mentioned I was working on. It is migraine-focused, but the ideas apply to most, if not all, illnesses.

27 thoughts on “Chronic Illness and Marriage”

  1. Dear me, I feel I am home. Like Gary above and others I have a similar story. My first wife had a rare form of cancer which we worked through and she survived. I saw while this was going on relationships falling to pieces around us but we actually at that point stayed pretty strong and together despite the chemo, the operations etc.. really hard road. Hooray we came through, survived and still alive today. I notice though following this a change and about 12 months later I came home to an empty house, house packed and emptied, 2 kids gone and moved to another state. My life was gone. Only rationale was she needed to change her life. Any way I got on with life and had remarried we now have a significant health challenges for my wife and this time I am being pushed away, attacked and blamed for her illness or at least not recognising that something was wrong(I am a health professional). If I try to either help of suggest anything around her condition or general health I get a whack for interfering with her illness(it is none of my business), if i step back and just support I get a whack for not caring and not supporting. The health issues have been identified since just into the new year of this year and this behavior has been steadily becoming more prevalent and more aggressive. I love my wife and understand she is grieving for her old life and is scared by her illness which is throwing up new challenges on a weekly basis but months of being called names, accused of not supporting her, being grilled for not having identified her illness I am just about at my wits end. If I didn’t have reasonable levels of coping ability I can understand how people just pack and go. Truth is guilt is keeping me here and I feel terrible for feeling like this. The saying sticks and stones and names not hurting, just isn’t true

  2. I’m dealing with a wife with MS and it’s hard. I feel like she pushes me away because we have had trust issues in the past and she doesn’t think I’ll be there for her . The more I try to prove to her that I’m not going anywhere I’m in it for the long haul we fight over the dumbest things. It’s hard I work almost 7 days a week help out around the house and try my best to be the best husband and father I can. She often tells me she wants a devoice and I tell her that I’m not going anywhere. But it’s hard to try to take care of someone who’s always pushing you away I’m been praying about our marriage and my wife health. By reading these post I know I’m not by myself and I will pray for all of you too. It hard seeing someone you love going though something like this and you can’t do anything thing about it . I keep on asking myself what am I doing wrong why every time our marriage seems to be doing better it falls apart so to emotional up and downs. I’m trying my best to be considerate of her feelings and be stand back but sometimes I get angry and take walks and when I do that then I’m not there for her it’s just hard . But I’m going to keep on fighting everyday because I can’t see myself with no one else

  3. I am so glad that I ran across these posts, (actually while looking for a support group for caregivers of chronically ill spouses). My wife and I have been together for over 35 years, raised a beautiful daughter to womanhood, who will soon graduate college. Our marriage has outlasted most of our friends and family members marriages. When she was first diagnosed with Osteoarthritis ten years ago, I had to take on additional household and parenting duties and that was a struggle because of my hectic work schedule.Then five years ago she was also diagnosed with RA. It has been more than a struggle to survive all the (physical/emotional/financial) ups and downs.Someone on here referred to it like a roller coaster and boy is that an accurate comparison! The hardest thing for me is that she used to be the active one and now she has to be left out so much of the time, if our daughter and I are going to have any kind of normalcy in our life. We try to include her as often as she is up to leaving the house. Sometimes she just needs to go for a nice long car ride or be pushed around the mall in her wheelchair so she doesn’t feel like a complete shut-in. Sure I have thought about leaving and getting on with life…even wondered “why me?”…but I know if the roles were reversed that she would be caring for me…I don’t know if things will ever change or continue to get worse. Her pain is real and extreme and does take its tole on her mental state. Many days it also has a negative impact on my mental state. I think what has made it easier for me to stay is wondering what my daughter would think of me if I abandoned her mother…Would it cause her to have doubts and fears about falling in love and trusting in a man…Also, she would be the one that would have to step in and take over caring for her mother and that seems less fair for a young woman at the beginning of her life to put all her dreams on hold and care for a sick mother…She isn’t the one who vowed ”in sickness and in health” and “until death do us part”…Not my place to judge (or be judged)…
    I do know that, in the same respect that all people’s tolerance level for pain/suffering is not the same…Not all care-giving partners of the chronically ill have the same breaking point either. I hope I have shed light on a different perspective for someone out there. I think my point is that; If you are suffering taking care of someone to the point where it is destroying your life, your health and all hope for your happiness, then it’s time to find a way to make other arrangements for the care of your significant other and leave them with as much dignity as possible. I’m sure anyone with a heart would feel guilt, shame and remorse for doing so, but would you want your spouse to give up the rest of their life taking care of you…?

  4. I needed to read these. My husband has Lupus and RA. I knew he was sick when we got together, just not the extent. He was under the impression he was getting better. I have spend all of my other relationships being pretty much the sole provider and told him I couldn’t handle taking care of anyone else anymore besides my 6 year old son at the time. I was burnt out. Well, fast forward 5 years we have been married now and have since had another boy. I also have my own health issues, fibromyalgia and other pain issues. I love my husband with all my heart. He is an amazing husband and dad. He still tells me daily how I saved his life and I am the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. He manages to watch our 2 year old while I work, since he cannot work, but that pretty much wipes out him helping in any other way. I have all the financial burden, all the housework, cooking, laundry, everything on my shoulders. I have become severely depressed and resentful. I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this. He sometimes even tells me my life would be better without him. Well, no, it would not. Then I would even have more on me as a single parent to two kids and be heartbroken as well. I don’t cope good with stress at all. I have gained a ton of weight, I am sure because my cortisol levels are through the roof. I wish I knew how to magically fix all this, but that is not reality. I have thoughts like what if my body and soul breaks one day, who will care for our children!!? I have resentment I truly can’t help. I am human. I feel guilty because he did not ask for his sickness, but I didn’t ask to have the weight of the world on my shoulders at 38. I feel like a robot most days just trying to make it until I crash into bed. I have even become somewhat of an alcoholic trying to get out of my head at night. It’s terrible!! I just want a healthy and happy family. I wish the government would assist more. I have a great job that is hard on my body. Just can I handle it another 16 years until I am eligible to retire? I guess part of my resentment is that I have my own health issues, but having someone take care of me has never been an option, just me working my hands to the bone. Thanks for letting me vent!! I don’t want to take it out on my precious husband. None of this is his fault.

  5. I am glad to have found this article. I left my sick husband after a marriage of more than 20 years, and I am not ashamed to say that I don’t regret it. Before he became ill, our marriage had some serious challenges (differing personalities and needs). We went to counseling and things would get a bit better for a while and then go back to the same old arguments and stresses. Then he developed a chronic, debilitating condition. He had to cut back on his work schedule, and many of his days were spent going to doctors and dealing with pain. Our life together became focused on his condition, his ever-changing medications (and side effects) and meeting his many needs. I felt exhausted and depleted. I thought a lot about the “for worse” aspects of my marriage commitment and kept asking myself: how long can I take the “for worse” before it just becomes too much? After more than five years, I decided I had had enough. The guilt I felt was enormous, but I kept looking ahead, hoping we’d both be better off in the long-run by not being together. Now it’s several years later and we are! He met a great woman who understood his limitations from Day 1, and who loves and accepts him on that basis. I am in a relationship as well. So my advice to anyone dealing with this is: think about your spouse but also think about yourself. If you are miserable most days in your situation, and if you are only staying because you are afraid of what will happen to your spouse once you leave, try to find the courage to exit as gracefully as you can. It won’t be easy, but in the long-run, you will feel so much better having a life that feels GOOD to you, and hopefully your ex-spouse will be able to muster the strength to do the same, even with the built-in limitations.

  6. My husband just passed away He had cancer for43 out of the 48 months we were married.I was a good care giver until the very last two months
    Then I would get angry and showed it to him . I was feeling very guilty until I read these comments .
    Thank you for them because I feel,like I am not so horrible of a person.

  7. You see here previous responses regarding the wife who is ill and the man is actually the one being pushed away. I dispute the bad rap men get regarding divorce and terminal illness’s such as cancer. I also dispute the exaggerated and incorrectly reported numbers . First of all why is it the man is assumed to be leaving a dying wife in a divorce? A woman is terminally ill, there’s a divorce maybe even a bitter one. Why is it the man’s fault? Does a terminal illness of a wife contribute to a higher divorce, unfortunately I’m sure it does. But not always in the way it’s often portrayed in fact I believe just the opposite is true. A husband, a man is charged with, takes a vow of , is raised to BE A PROTECTOR to his wife. We may not have any dragons to slay but we can still keep the wolves at bay ! In other words I don’t believe that men are the culprits here, it’s not a male trait , it’s not in our DNA, it’s not masculinity to abandon a sick queen. I believe the majority of the time and the reason the numbers are higher when it’s the wife who’s ill is because it’s the sick wife who pushes the man away . That’s consistent with the maternal instinct. Only a creep or a total a h le would bail out in such circumstances. When men are ill especially chronically or terminal, well heck yeah we want “”mommy” there. After all a man is just a big boy. What I’ve observed first-hand is that when a woman is terminally ill she welcomes and is grateful for her hero’s help. But as things progress women who often have a bigger circle of support than men tend to fall into the trap of equating nurturing, and caregiving as that “C” word: CONTROLLING……once a woman goes down that rabbit hole and starts chit chatting with her g/f along those lines….. Well dude, might as well pack that carry on that’s about to become your new portable condo. So in part I think that’s one of the many reasons that account for the seemingly anti-male divorce rate with a terminally ill wife. I should know after caring for not one but 2 spouses for 5 years who were diagnosed with terminal and extremely rare cancers, the outcome was the same, pushed away, so far away in fact it feels hateful. Which struck me as odd because both times, both wives, stayed alive because I made the effort to find the right Drs, the right treatments, to do the research, to learn how to understand what the labs and scans meant. I bravely has to wear the the hat of husband, lover, caregiver, medical researcher, advocate, partner, advisor, not too mention housekeeper, chef ,chauffeur and when your fulfilling all those roles over a long period of time……….your hajj is going to feel stifled, not well cared for. She’s gonna want those g/f weekends, sick or not, she may start identifying with all those housewife shows on bravo. And what’s it like to be dying oop’s sorry “living” for year after year….? Hell on both of you, I think harder on us. Living can be worse than death. When you suffer the pain the grief of knowing that your love will leave you to pass on before her time. Well its grief that never leaves you. And then to be alone, the pain is real . Pain is pain. Let’s add to that devoted for years trying to help, to rescue, to slay the Dragon you cannot. And after all that…. To be discarded and many times abused by a system that favors women especially a dying woman……Well its no surprise that the suicide rate is extremely high amongst divorced men of terminally ill wives. Is not because of shame, it’s because of hopelessness , intolerable grief and pain and often even homelessness and estrangement of friends, acquaintances and even family who all assume it was you, the guys fault…….not always true.

    1. Gary Steven Bate – The pain you speak of is palpable. I cannot even begin to imagine what it is like to have walked the path you have. You sound like you have a big heart and that you have (more than once) been quite injured (to put it mildly). I cannot imagine caring for two terminally ill spouses and the grief you carry while you are caretaking for them knowing they are dying. It sounds like you gave so much of yourself to the betterment of your spouses in wearing SO many hats. And then to feel/ be pushed away after you have given so much when what you need is encouragement and appreciation. It sounds like divorce occurred in your situation(s) and you feel the weight of the aftermath. And who wouldn’t? My heart goes out to you as you described the hopelessness and grief and pain and homelessness and estrangement.

      I read what you wrote a few times. And I care about what you have to say. I understand from what you said that that your experience is that others assume it is the guy’s fault. I’m so sorry that that is what has happened to you (and probably many many people.) I don’t have any experience with terminal illness or divorce. But my heart goes out to you as I understand pain. Pain is pain and it is real no matter who you are. What I know about emotional and physical pain is that some days it is living it out just one day at a time, but sometimes it is living moment by moment.

      I don’t have any words of wisdom- I just want you to know that you are heard. My heart goes out to you for what you have been through. And that what you said matters to me.

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience and your raw emotions. I learned a lot about what you feel & what others in your situation may feel. Thank you for sharing.

      Because you mentioned the high suicide rate, I want to share with anyone who might feel/understand the helplessness you describe the the national suicide prevention lifeline website & number for US: 1-800-273-8255 and is for outside of the US.

  8. I like reading articles like this because it makes me feel like i’m not alone in my struggles.

    My wife has a chronic illness. We have been married for almost 20 years now and She can barely function some days. Which leaves me feeling like a single parent. It can be extremely hard. What frustrates me the most is I don’t feel like i’m allowed to feel anger or frustration over the situation. It makes me feel guilty and I know it makes her feel awful too. I know it’s not her fault and I love her more than anything, but any show of anger or frustration just sends her into an even bigger depressions. She often wants me to leave her because she feels I would be happier with someone else. I really wouldn’t be happier with someone else. I may be happier with a healthy wife but she is so awesome that i would rather be with her than anyone else. I have no plans on leaving. It really frustrates me when she says that I should leave her and it almost feels like she is trying to push me to leave her at times. I feel like she isn’t as committed to me as I am to her.

    I like what Katie Burk commented…
    ““The truth will probably hurt both of you. Talk about it anyway.” Beautiful.

    Thanks for letting me vent a bit

  9. Hi, I am 41 years old and was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis when I was 17 years old. Since then I have had multiple surgeries and joint replacements but have continued to work full time, work in our two businesses, take care of my daughter and 80% of the household duties. My husband is an amazing man and I was 19 years old when we got married; this year we are having our 26th anniversary. I haven’t read the above referenced article yet (I’m going to after I finish writing this post/question) but I know whole heartedly that my chronic illness has taken a toll on both my husband and my marriage. Before we married, my mother in law had a very in depth conversation with him regarding my illness and asked him to consider the possible effects of my chronic illness on himself and the marriage because I was going to get worse and not better in the future. She felt it wasn’t going to be fair to me if he decided later he couldn’t “handle” it but also wanted him to think about the possible negative effects it may have on himself. Being a young man he said he understood and it was completely ok with him, nothing would change. Flash forward 25 years, I see on a daily basis how my chronic illness has impacted him and the fear, anger, guilt, and resentment towards me that has built up over the years. I have always tried to be independent, almost to a fault, and have tried to live my life as if I wasn’t sick, also to a fault and in somewhat of denial in order to manage my own emotions about the situation and to try to be a “good” wife. After the birth of our daughter things really changed. The pregnancy negatively impacted my body in ways I never thought it would and I have never been able to fully recover. Plus the emotional and physical toll of being the primary caregiver to her while my husband traveled on business trips added more strain to our marriage and my personal stress levels. I know I have not been an easy “patient” in the sense of not always taking care of myself thru proper exercise, diet, etc. and my multiple work/personal duties has impacted my ability or choices to take care of myself in the past. After I had an emotional/nervous breakdown last year a lot of this changed for me and I am currently taking better care of myself, but I am still a work in progress. So.. Here is my question for anyone who has advice for me, (caregivers and/or chronically ill spouses), I would greatly appreciate it. My chronic illness and the way I managed it for so many years has negatively impacted my marriage and relationship with my husband to the point that our emotional connection is very low and our intimacy level is currently at zero for the last 5 years. There are other factors that have contributed to this decline but my health is probably the biggest factor. I have so many feelings of guilt and shame for being sick, not being able to take care of myself in a way he has wanted, the hurt I have caused and esp the anger or resentment I have created. When I look into his eyes and listen to him talk I hear/see the fear, anger, and resentment he has towards me for not being able to physically do activities with our family unit and what the future may hold. Since I have been taking care of myself better and becoming emotionally/physically well and whole, I have started to see the anger shift towards “why didn’t you do this sooner”. Divorce was never an option for me when I got married but approx 1 year ago I started having the conversation with him about possible separation/divorce if we’re unable to correct things and become happier people as a couple and as individuals. What would you do if you knew that your chronic illness was hurting the one you love and holding them back in life from having the life experiences they wanted to have? I know he wants to have these life experiences with me but I am also worried that he continues to stay married out of guilt or expectations to stay, esp since he knew I was really sick before he married me. Would you continue to stay married to a wonderful man and father knowing he is unhappy and hurting or would you let him go and divorce in order to allow him to have the chance for happiness in his life with another person that can give him the things that I possibly can’t? In the same respect, if you were me, would it be better for me to be single and possibly have a future relationship with someone who isn’t resentful towards me for being chronically ill or do you feel that is something that will not be possible for me, esp since that future person may end up being a caregiver also and become as equally angry or resentful. I am worried about the example as a mother, woman and wife that I am modeling for my daughter. I don’t want her to grow up thinking that it’s ok or normal for a marriage to appear “loveless” on the outside and with so much tension, sadness or anger. She has already begun to ask me questions about “why daddy doesn’t love me… Go do anything with me… Why doesn’t he talk to me.. And why is he always mad at me”. Plus, I want both my husband and I to both be happy and to to feel loved. We are both good people and I don’t want to rob him of his time in life when he could be happier with someone else. I hope my question makes sense, it’s hard to write in words how I am feeling or the complicated situation I feel like I am in. I am grateful for any words of wisdom, no matter how harsh or gently they are given. Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Kristina, I think the answers to your questions largely depend on the people who are involved. I would recommend working with a therapist (ideally you and your husband individually and with a couples’ therapist) to process your grief. I’ve heard from many couples that describe similar situations who were able to find a happy new normal in their relationships after working through the grief. It’s possible for both partners to be satisfied with the relationship and their lives even with the presence of chronic illness, but it takes effort. Finding a therapist that I connect with and who has experience with chronic illness has changed my life in so many positive ways. I can’t recommend finding someone highly enough. And if you don’t click with the first person (or first several people), keep looking. It is so worth it in the end.

      Best wishes,

    2. Hi.
      We have been married for 20 odd years. My wife has Lupus. She has always been sickly but after her 4th birthday when she had a son she has got worse. The toll on her body.
      I feel so guilty and her being sick.
      This has caused a financial strain as well.
      I look at her and feel no attraction to her at all. I feel guilty about this and have started to resent her.
      I understand your husbands feeling’s.
      It is a terrible position to be in.

      1. CC.
        I am married to a woman with ms. She was diagnosed 4 years ago but has had symptoms for at least 8 years. It will be our 15 anniversary this summer. The physical limitations are difficult. The fatigue. It effects our daughters. They often just play around the house which means iPads and such while ‘momma’ sleeps. I can manage this and build a plan to fix this. The cognitive decline is what I can’t take. She can barley focus on a conversation. My confidante is gone. I am alone from an emotional stand point. I feel so selfish to want a companion who can challenge me, help me grow and comfort me. If the tables were turned I’m sure she not feel any of these struggles, and that is the part that hurts so much. But at night, when I lie awake. I’m unhappy, unfulfilled and need to be free…

        1. Hi,
          First of all thank you for sharing. I too, have a husband with a chronic illness. I too am beyond floored about what to do. I live each day as on a roller coaster. I never know what I may come home to. I find myself getting mad and have even thought about planning for the worse (funeral), each time he gets really sick. I am sure it is a weird and selfish way to cope, but each time he gets worse I think this may be it and I distance myself even more. Even though he is back at work, it is a constant struggle. I find myself thinking about being with someone else. I am envious of my friends who can go out with their spouses. I just turned forty and am sad when I realize that this can/may be the rest of my life. I know an affair is not the answer, but I miss the emotional and intimate connection with someone.

          1. Hi, JN,
            I understand where you’re coming from. Like you, I never knew what I was coming home to at the end of my work day. As I mentioned above in my post, I struggled for years over whether or not to stay. Seeing a very good therapist helped me a great deal. I am probably not the only person who has had a positive outcome from having decided to leave a long marriage to a chronically ill person. But I know that answer does not work for many people in this situation — especially when there are young children in the picture. If you are considering divorce, you need to be aware of the maintenance (formerly “alimony” ) regulations in your state because this may impact whether or not you have to pay a significant portion of your income to your ill spouse. There are also Social Security implications, so in some cases, it may be advantageous to remain married for at least ten years if you ever want to collect on an ex-spouse’s record, if there is an employment history. These are just a few things to keep in mind…. Stay strong. Lean on friends and family for support if you cannot get that from your husband. I wish you the best.

  10. I can so identify with this situation! I have been married to my husband for 37 years.Two years into our marriage he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and is insulin dependant ( 4 needles daily ).Combined with having only one kidney and a long history of self neglect and a refusal to admit that he has this condition has made our life together very challenging! We have raised 3 wonderful children which makes us very proud but looking back the strain of worrying about my partner has definitely take its toll.I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia 5 years ago so l seem to have run out of energy to cope with this situation and as his health is deteriorating things are becoming quite difficult.Quite frankly l am afraid of what the future holds.Thank goodness for forums like this where carers can vent in confidence and feel they are not alone.Thank you.

  11. It’s also the system. I still love my husband but because of my income we can’t get any help. I can just barely afford to keep a roof over our heads and things like internet, tv and going out once a week. But I have fibromyaligia and chronic fatigue syndrome and am barely managing my full time job. But because I’m married to him I’m also supposed to do the cleaning, cooking and shopping. That means right now we’re living on microwave meals and we’re having eviction threats against us because I can’t keep up with the household. We need household assistance but I can’t pay for it and due to my income we can’t get assistance. It would be easier if he lived by himself or in an adult foster home so I wouldn’t have to also do his part of the household but I can’t afford that either. So I’m finding myself having to consider divorce not because I don’t love him anymore but because -my health is worsening every day because of this-. I wrote my own vows and said i’d stay with him as long as it wasn’t harming me, (after a previous abusive marriage I felt that was a good thing to put in vows) and now the marriage is harming me, even if not through actions of his. If the system had support for spouses of disabled/chronically ill people even if their income was a little over the federal poverty line (I’m in the US, sorry if this is not a US blog) then it would be soo much more possible to stay together. But without help the caregiving job is absolutely exhausting and even respite care costs money. Without support, people will not be able to hang in there and do it daily for years on end. I wish all those politicians who always talk about the importance of marriage put their money where their mouth is and made it possible for caregiving spouses to get some help 🙁

  12. Kerrie, I really appreciate your post in bringing this issue of chronic illness and marriage to light and look forward to reading what you share on It is SO important to talk about. Thank you for your honesty about your reaction to the post. I am glad you shared it and as my husband I both have chronic illnesses and have to be caregivers to each other. Based on your statistics, our marriage probably shouldn’t survive…but it will! 🙂 I own the book you referenced though I haven’t read much yet. I’m glad you provided the resources!

    In late 2012, seven years into my disabling chronic illnesses, I found my husband unconscious & seizing. He was rushed to the ER, on a ventilator (unable to breathe on his own), in a coma and his kidneys eventually started failing. Thankfully, he survived after it being touch and go, but when he awoke, we found out it was a suicide attempt. He had severe undiagnosed depression. What we know now is he had not been equipped with the tools to handle emotions since childhood even though he has had Crohn’s disease since he was little, and seven years of coping with mine was too much and he had a psychotic break despite the fact that we were doing what I felt as everything “right” including talking truth/going to individual & joint therapy. My chronic illnesses most certainly had a bad effect on my husband’s health and it was a horrid- cold water in the face realization.

    Your post inspired me to share a post about my situation with my husband which I’m in the process of writing. I really appreciate what you wrote because it got me thinking about my own situation in life and evaluate what if anything we could have done differently.
    Thanks again for sharing. Your honesty is refreshing.

    1. Kelly, wow, your husband and your marriage have been through so much. Thank you for sharing your story so openly and honestly. I think it’s important for people to see that chronic illness can be detrimental to relationships even when people are doing things “right.” I don’t mean that as a discouragement, but that we all stumble and we all fail, but it’s possible to pick up ourselves and our partners and make our relationships strong again. I’m looking forward to reading your post.


  13. I read the same article and as a caregiver I know what she is talking about. It is very hard to learn to make your new reality work in your relationship. It is so hard to watch someone you love suffer but at the same time it is very difficult to feel that everything is your responsibility. It takes commitment, compassion and determination to make any marriage work and throw in a chronic illness and it can get even more complicated but it is not impossible. In spite of my husband’s chronic illness we have a wonderful marriage for which I am truly grateful!

    1. I am 25 years old and have been dealing with my partners chronic illness for two years. I feel awful ever complaining about things like chores or having friends over, but its hard not to when my life has been turned upside down at such a young age. I even find myself questioning how sick he really is, when I see him on his computer all day, and I know I shouldn’t. I work 45 hours a week, am trying to make my own business to get us more money, have to do all chores, and can never have friends over. Its exhausting, but I’m doing the best I can and I know he is too.

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